Family recipe · leftovers · no-dough · traditional Russian recipe

Soviet New Year Saga Continued… with Olivier and Herring

There is this HUGE deal of details concerning New Year celebration – the MEAL – that I left from the previous post. And, n’est-ce pas, this is exactly what interests us here!The Soviets were in their quite simple way rather imaginative and creative people when it came to the festive table. Whole lotta things one can make out of very ordinary things, I think you would agree. And even out of very scant amount of things, provided their poor quality sometimes and very poor variety. So when it comes to creating really something out of nothing, here you can ask some Soviet Granny for a very nice advice. Or take a look into their cookbooks, compiled from bits and bits of some recipes from journals and mostly ‘author’ recipes from one’s friends, family recipes and some time-proven tips and ideas. But the thing is, most of the recipes were kept in a much more secure and sure place than a book, and thus they’re unavailable for us now. The head, this is where one keeps the recipes! If you ask me, I will hardly remember anything, as I try each time to bake something new. the only recipe I remember is the chocolate glaze. But my Granny can recall several recipes, repeated over and over throughout her life. My other Granny, who now lives with us, cannot recall even my name, so, unfortunately, her recipes are lost… It’s sad, cause she could bake very well, very very well, so well, that my Father grew so used to eating lots of baked tasty stuff, that he’s always being quite critical to what we cook with my Mom=) So, people, if you have your Granny-full-of-recipes, do yourself a favour for the future, ask her for the recipes, I’m sure most of them are in her head!

Ok, let’s continue. So, out of very common ingredients a real Soviet cooking (and most of them were, although sometimes they cooked just out of a necessity and not with pleasure, as my Mom did) housewife will create a real festive table. Take, for example, the MAIN dish on the New Year’s table, here it is:

Yep, that’s it – a bowl full of salad Olivier! though my Mom made it after New Year’s Eve, but who cares. However, the thing about Olivier is that it’s best consumed the day after it’s made, after chilling in the fridge overnight, the hangover morning of the 1st of January (well, it’s usually well after MORNING=).  The story behind this salad involves Russian tsars, French cooks and leftovers=) as the legend goes, that the cook made it out of the only remaining ingredients in the kitchen, but the result was so stunning that it’s now well-known beyond Russia as the Russian or Potato salad. But, PLEASE, I beg you not to try ordering it in any restaurant except for the truly Russian one, cause what I tried in Greece was so disgusting, brrr! =)

So, the true Soviet version of salad Olivier includes the following basic 5 ingredients:

  • hard boiled eggs, diced
  • boiled sausage, diced
  • boiled potatoes (usually boiled with peels, my Mom also boils carrots in peels, and then the peels are removed), diced
  • marinated (salted) cucumbers (usually home-made, from home-grown cucumbers), diced
  • canned green peas, whole=)

Dice everything, except for peas=), season to taste …

and add loads of mayonnaise, the amount depends on your decency=D (which can also be ‘lightened’ with sour cream). The ingredients are so universal that they can be obtained at any point of the year, although the second name of this salad, Zimny (Winter Salad) speaks out loud that the ingredients are also easily available in winter, as almost everything is canned, marinated or preserved=) So the variations include boiled carrots, boiled chicken or any type of meat to taste, sometimes even apples or canned corn (of course not during Soviet times).

First, everything is loaded in a bowl (according to the number of guests awaited) and then the salad is served in glass serving bowls, topped with yet more mayonnaise=) The ingredients, as my Mom told me, were acquired well in advance, including at least two jars of mayonnaise, the king of the table! Mom says, it was very thick and fatty in Soviet times and almost nobody cared for the extra kilos, so no sour cream was added to make it less tangy.

And now the second staple on the festive table – Selyodka pod Shuboj, or Herring under Fur-Coat (literally).

The famous Wikipedia also gives such translation: Dressed herring. This salad is more sophisticated in the way that it’s layered and composed of:

  • diced salted herring
  • potatoes – boiled, also with peels, then grated with large ‘wholes’
  • carrots – boiled with peels, grated
  • beet roots – the main ingredient after the herring, as it is on the top and gives the salad its colour; boiled in peels, grated
  • chopped onions – which my Mom omits – chopped
  • hard boiled eggs for the topping

and of course mayonnaise is added almost after each layer.

My Granny’s recipe dictates the following order immediately in the serving plate, from glass so that all the layers are visible:

  1. salted herring, sliced and at most cleared from all the non-edible parts=)
  2. potato layer
  3. mayonnaise to cover the surface
  4. carrot layer (very thin layer)
  5. beet root layer – of the same amount as the potato layer
  6. mayonnaise to cover the surface, the thickest layer, as the beetroot should soak in it
  7. grated egg, yolk and white grated separately

The salad is then placed in a cold place (remember, fridges are a luxury), and the same as for Olivier, this salad is also much better the next day. As I hmmm hate fish, I just can repeat the words of others, so trust them=) The only thing I can do, is grate the ingredients and later consume the fur-coat=) This salad is also familiarly called simply Shuba (Fur-Coat). The multiple variations include apples, but this is for bourgeois people=)))

These two salads are still very popular with Russians and the ex-Soviet republics, not only for New Year but also for other celebrations, prepared well in advance, in quantities enough to satisfy also the next morning hangover hunger.

In order to get good ingredients, one had to have good connections. In order to have caviar, for example, it was available from the restaurants, where with necessary connections, one could get it under the counter… Well, you could imagine! Then, the table MUST consist of lots of starters, like pickled cucumbers, salted mushrooms (with love picked in autumn, with a thought of a New Year’s table), stuffed eggs (with mushrooms), semi or dry cured sausage & cheese, all sliced on a plate…

Wine, vodka and champagne were quite available, these were from Georgia, Crimea, etc., very popular and loved by the Soviets.

For the dessert, chocolate sweets in bright foil wraps, tangerines from Abkhazia,  Indian tea, something home baked, to be praised by the guests=).

The table was covered with the best table cloth, and the best crockery, glasses etc. were taken out of the cupboards.

This is it for now!

Have a great weekend!



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